Prequels are always a tough nut to crack. Done right they can show how the story you love got it’s jumping off point. Done wrong you’re given answers to questions you never had. Furthermore you often see compelling characters de-mystified with hackneyed motivations. If you’ve already seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning you know which category it falls into. But after re-watching the 2003 remake I wanted to look back at this film as well. Does it get a bum rap? Could I find some bits and pieces that merit this revisit? Oil up the chainsaw and throw on your fleshy face mask, we’re going back to Travis County, Texas.
Marcus Nispel opted out of returning to the director’s chair with Jonathan Liebesman taking over. And while he only had one film under his belt (the guilty pleasure Darkness Falls) he did a great job keeping up the style of the previous film. And again, the style of these films is divisive among people, but I have to give him credit for keep up continuity in the franchise.
Once again the cast is a pretty mixed bag. I actually think the protagonists are more likable than the first film. Jordana Brewster brings more to Chrissie than the typical screaming and running. I actually like the dynamic between brothers Dean and Eric. Eric returning for a second tour in Vietnam as Dean intends to avoid his draft notice heading for Mexico with his girlfriend. All of this right here adds up to more character development than everything between the four characters in the previous film. But when it comes to the Hewitt family the characteristics we get answers for are pretty dumb. Want to know how Hoyt became sheriff or lost his teeth? How about how Monty lost his legs? But once again R. Lee Ermey is perfectly sadistic, so that’s always good.
“Damn, I just killed the entire police department!” Sheriff Hoyt
As I mentioned above one of the biggest problems of prequels is giving us backstory that is unnecessary. Here we open on a woman giving birth and dying in the town slaughterhouse. The child, born with facial
deformities is tossed in a dumpster where Luda Mae Hewitt is searching for something to eat. She takes the baby home, names him Thomas, and raises him as her own. We cut ahead and Thomas is working at the slaughterhouse as its being shut down. After killing his boss (the one that let his mother die) setting off a chain of events that would lead to the birth of Leatherface. So, did any of this make the character of Leatherface more interesting? Nope, not one bit. It also leads to another problem with origin stories, trying to illicit sympathy for the killer. This is something that can work, but honestly not that often.
But some of the problems with the story are moments that make no sense. I guess when police officers (plural) die in the middle of Texas no one investigates? Well it was 1969; maybe people disappeared all the time back then? I guess if they had known Nispel’s remake would’ve been a hit they might’ve not killed off Hoyt or had Leatherface lose an arm to keep the door open for a sequel. How can guy work a chainsaw with only one arm? The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning has a solid look, Brewster is a bright spot, and the gore factor is upped. Everything else is kind of a big fat meh. On the plus side it is a far better prequel story than the 2017 film Leatherface. We may have to take a look at film again down the line.
Overall Score 1.5/5